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End of life care during a pandemic

As we continue forward with social distancing to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, isolation has become a new reality. Although some are able to be home with their loved ones, many do not have this comfort and are feeling more alone than ever.

Carefor Hospice Cornwall, known for its positive atmosphere and friendly staff, is feeling similar pressures with visitation restrictions, as well as protocol changes impacting both staff and patients.

Nurse, Maureen Froats has been working at the Cornwall Hospice for five years now, offering care to patients transitioning through their final stage of life. “Bedside nursing is very hands on, and we have a good team here. Everyone has an important role to play” Throughout her five years she has experienced many facets of patient care, however nothing compares to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The masks, the gloves, the gowns… they take away from the personal touch, but it’s what we have to do considering the circumstances.” Although the Hospice team still does everything possible to comfort and provide a high level of care to patients, the team has encountered some hurdles. “We’ve now realized some patients are struggling to understand us when we’re talking to them because they subconsciously rely on lip reading in conversations and cannot do so with a mask on.” Other simple yet comforting points of contact like giving a patient a hug has been stopped for the time being. “It’s a lot of talking, consoling, and listening.”

At this time, Hospice has limited visitors to one per patient. “Before, we used to have families in here day and night to stay with their loved one. They could rely on one-another and take shifts.” Prior to COVID-19, families would support one-another in common areas such as the servery. “Families traditionally would meet in the kitchen just like at home. They would get to chat with each other and be a support for one another over tears, laughter and war stories.” Now, visitors are limited to the patient’s room.

Until the day the visitor restrictions are lifted, the Hospice team will continue to move forward and provide compassionate end of life care to patients. “We will get over this. Try not to get discouraged and if you do, only do it for a couple minutes and then chin up and carry on.”

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